This project would take something that so many musicians privately do and it would build infrastructure around it so that its impacts can be felt more fully, more publicly, and across a broader population. As a musician who has inadvertently become specialized in playing in end-of-life and funeral situations, I can say that the potential here is tremendous, and the need for infrastructure is dire. I have been invited by hospice workers to play for their patients, and while it was very healing and beautiful for everyone involved, it was also draining because of the extent to which we were all winging it. Having a community with varying levels of experience would go a long way in getting uncomfortable and unnecessary snafus out from inbetween the humans and the music. One thing that feels important to say is that the musicians would need to be performers (not just songwriters) and have a great sense of humor. Inviting a family and dying patient to feel more deeply is only helpful so long as that performer (and their hospice support network) are able to hold space for the depth of feeling that comes up, and part of that means being able to express the full range of human emotions. I've found humor to be more important in this setting than any other. Zoe Boekbinder is a musician who leads songwriting workshops in prisons and then tours the songs that she co-writes with the prisoners. She calls herself a human tape recorder, since recording devices aren't allowed in prison. I think a similar project is needed for the sacred spaces created around the dying, and this is it. I definitely think that the original compositions based on the lives of the dying should be secondary to playing music (both original songs and those chosen by the patient). The idea of having one's story put into a song and performed would scare off a lot of people whose process could be greatly deepened with some simple strumming and singing. The possibility of writing a song should be suggested as an option down-the-line only if the patient or family desire it. I feel you're on the brink of something hugely transformative, Ned. Thanks for being brave enough to dream this big. I'm going to pass this on to Kathy Herrfeldt, who owns an end-of-life care business in Sacramento and who has asked me to play for patients dear to her heart.
Magnificent!!! Before my dad died, the owner of my favorite music shop told me, "son, it will be one of the honors of your life to play music for your father on his death bed." He was so right, and I want everyone to have music filling the air when they die, creating a place for the feelings to go and be held. Beautiful vision, Ned.